The Pucker Street Dam

Archived Story

Remove or restore?

Published 11:04pm Thursday, October 20, 2011

The city of Niles earlier this month issued a request for proposal to companies and organizations that might be interested in restoring power to the long-dormant, city-owned Pucker Street Dam.
City Administrator Ric Huff said the RFP was sent out to see if “there is an interest  out there” and to see if restoring the dam would be a cost-effective option.
Mayor Mike McCauslin has been a proponent of restoring the dam to generate power, arguing  it would be an effective step in bringing the city into compliance with the state mandate of 10 percent green energy by 2015.

Out-of-state activists

But a group known as the Dowagiac River Keepers is not giving up on its effort to convince the city council to remove the dam.
The group of nine people, most of whom live out of state, has been trying to educate the community on the benefits of dam removal for the ecological health of the Dowagiac River. In response to the city’s issuing the RFP, the River Keepers are preparing a proposal of their own, encouraging the city to take steps toward removal of the dam.

Educational campaign
Ken Crowne, an Illinois resident and member of the Dowagiac River Keepers, said in an interview Tuesday Niles should look to the city of Watervliet as an example. The Berrien County city recently removed a dam on the Paw Paw River in a grant-funded project.
“In many dam removal projects, federal, state and local organizations have assisted the city in obtaining funds for the project so no taxpayer dollars or city resources are needed,” Crowne said.
Crowne said Niles could  have a dam removal inspection and analysis completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at no cost.
The Pucker Street Dam issue came up at a recent mayoral debate between incumbent Mike McCauslin and challenger Tim Skalla.
McCauslin and Skalla promoted the idea of restoring the dam and pointed out most of the dissenters come from outside of the area.
“The river is created for the benefit of all, and the interest from non-residents should speak to the potential value it has to economics, recreation and tourism,” Crowne said.
The Dowagiac River Keepers are hoping to set up a meeting with city council to address city officials and residents about the dam removal process.

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